I hate overly negative reviews. They don’t do anything but discourage developers from venturing out and taking a shot at creating something that could be truly special. Behind every game are thousands of hours of manpower, and it’s unfair to venomously and unjustifiably rip a game to shreds in the interest of creating waves. That being said, you must trust me that this review isn’t overly negative; it’s properly negative.
AMY is bad. Terrible, in fact. It’s a veritable Murderer’s Row of poor game design elements heaped on top of a hazy narrative. It’s been a long time since the games industry has experienced a title this offensively awful, and the one good thing to come from AMY‘s existence is that maybe good games will be more appreciated in its wake.
AMY follows the story of a woman named Lana who finds herself in a temporary parental role to Amy, an autistic 8-year old girl. As they’re travelling by train, an explosion derails them and thrusts them squarely into the zombie apocalypse. This is all established in the opening cut scene, and it’s the clearest the plot ever gets.
The most disappointing aspect of AMY‘s shortcomings is that it was built around a genuinely interesting concept that had a ton of potential. If VectorCell were able to achieve a narrative that was emotionally charged and focused on the mutually symbiotic relationship between Lana and Amy, it would’ve inspired the player to wade through the severely lacking gameplay in the interest of reaching a conclusion to the game’s narrative. Instead, the story carries so little weight and the mechanics falter so profoundly that the player feels no investment in the characters and is easily (and almost constantly) detached from the experience altogether.
The most egregious of AMY‘s missteps is how it controls. While it doesn’t have an excessive number of movements and actions, the controls are laid out in the most unintuitive way imaginable. It left me routinely delaying several seconds while I tried to remember simple commands such as how to run. However, just because the proper buttons were pushed doesn’t mean that AMY will actually respond. Regularly, the game would stubbornly refuse to obey inputs; it would usually take a third or fourth try, a change of the camera angle, or a slight step forward for the game to comply.
Touted as a horror survival game, AMY puts more emphasis than is customary on combat. Unfortunately, the combat system is also (unshockingly) sluggish and broken. Battling the infected monsters is nothing more than an exercise in chance and tedium, as the player has no discernible control over Lana’s wild flailing attacks and her spotty dodging. This, coupled with the fact that it’s incredibly difficult to use syringes that restore health while engaged in a fight make dying a deplorable inevitability.
By far the most frustrating and baffling facet of AMY‘s game design is the omission of regular auto-save points. The spotty controls and unpredictable camera swings lead to a lot of unwarranted deaths. A bit of self-awareness on the developer’s part by adding gracious checkpoints could have gone a little ways toward salvaging any shred of dignity that AMY could muster. As it is, dying will set you back a long ways, sometimes three-quarters of a chapter. It’s completely inexcusable for a game to subject the player to the same 20 minutes of unbearable stretches of level, time and time again, due solely to its own incompetence. It’s also the reason that the vast majority of players, including myself, will never finish this game.
After only a few hours with AMY, it’s evident that this is the most intolerable, infuriating, and inexcusable title in recent memory. While it may have been passable in 2002, it certainly has no place in 2012. This game has absolutely no redeeming features and is nothing short of a train wreck, as maybe the opening cinematic was inadvertently foreshadowing. The best thing that we can do now is to move forward without looking back, and just pretend that AMY never happened.